Paying the Costs of College after Divorce in New Jersey

divorceTraditionally, divorce settlements in New Jersey did not mandate any type of payment by the non-custodial parent for the costs of a child’s college education. Parents could voluntarily contribute or even include some type of payment arrangements in a divorce settlement, but it was totally discretionary. To a significant degree, that has changed.

Under the current approach, courts will look at the financial resources of a non-custodial parent to determine whether contributions to a child’s college tuition and other costs should be mandatory. Though the courts tend to view college education now as a necessity, such a requirement will typically only be included in a divorce decree after an analysis of the following factors:

  • Whether the family values and goals create a reasonable expectation by the non-custodial parent that the child will attend college
  • The amount required by the child to pay for higher education, as compared to the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay
  • The financial resources of the custodial parent
  • The availability of financial aid
  • Any financial resources the child may have
  • The child’s ability to earn income during the academic year
  • The level of commitment of the child to the course of study
  • The intellectual capacity or aptitude of the child
  • Any financial resources the child may have
  • The child’s ability to earn income during the academic year
  • The extent to which the curriculum sought relates to any prior training or long-range goals of the child

To protect yourself, either as a custodial or a non-custodial parent, you want to make certain that your property settlement agreement clearly states the obligations of each parent with respect to payment of the costs of a college education. In addition, you want to know whether your child support obligation terminates on the child’s 18th birthday…it does not do so automatically.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Stepparent Adoption in NJ

Stepparent Adoption in New Jersey

If you’ve remarried after divorce and you have children from your prior marriage, you may want to consider having your new spouse legally adopt your children. Some of the benefits include:

  • The legal right to make decisions about medical care, education, religious training and other life concerns for your stepchild
  • A potentially greater bond with your stepchild
  • A greater sense of security for the stepchild, particularly if the biological parent is absent
  • It will ensure that your stepchild has access to health insurance and other benefits through your employer

As a general rule, stepparent adoptions are simpler than other types of adoptions. In many states, including New Jersey, there’s no requirement that you complete a home study. Nonetheless, the process can take a few months.

Often, the biggest challenge with a stepparent adoption is obtaining a termination of the parental rights of the non-custodial parent. The easiest way to do that is to convince the non-custodial parent to voluntarily relinquish parental rights. Because the termination of parental rights also terminates the obligation to pay child support, that can be an attractive option for some non-custodial parents. However, it also extinguishes the right to visitation with the child.

If you cannot get the non-custodial parent to voluntarily give up parental rights, you can ask the court to terminate those rights. A judge will typically not allow a termination without sufficient cause, such as abandonment, documented domestic abuse or unfitness to be a parent. Among the factors that contribute to a finding of unfitness are history of substance abuse, incarceration or neglect.

You can also terminate the rights of a non-custodial father if you can provide evidence that he’s not the biological parent. DNA evidence is customarily sufficient.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Happy Holidays from Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

Law Office of David M LipshutzWith gratitude, we look back on the blessings of this past year; with hope, we look forward to success in the new year. Thank you for choosing to work with us. We hope that this season brings you all that you’re hoping for and that its happiness lasts into the new year.

Domestic Violence and Time Off from Work in New Jersey

Domestic Violence and Time Off from Work in New JerseyWhen you have been the victim of violence at home, it can have a dramatic impact on your work as well. You may need medical treatment or be required to attend court proceedings. You may be experiencing emotional difficulties, need psychological counseling or need to find a safe place.

In recognition of the challenges that domestic violence victims face, the New Jersey legislature enacted a law allowing persons who have been subjected to such abuse to take time off without fear of retaliation or termination. There are pretty specific requirements, though, and the law is clear about how much time you may take off.

Under the law, to be eligible for time off under the domestic violence statute, you must work for a company that has at least 25 employees. You must have worked for that employer for at least 12 calendar months, and must have put in at least 1,000 hours over that period of time. You must also provide written notice to your employer as soon as possible. You do not need to be the victim of the domestic violence, but your employer may require documentation that you or someone in your household or family has suffered from domestic violence. Under the law, any of the following is sufficient to meet your employer’s request:

  • A restraining or protective order issued by a court
  • Documentation from a prosecutor
  • Documents showing that your accuser was convicted of domestic violence
  • Medical records
  • Certification from a certified domestic violence specialist, a domestic violence agency or the director of a rape crisis center
  • Other documentation from a professional, such as a shelter worker, social worker or member of the clergy

The law requires that you employer keep all records and information about the domestic violence allegations strictly confidential.

Under the law, you can take up to 20 days leave in the twelve months following your request. This time may also count against any leave to which you are entitled under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Alimony in New Jersey – An Overview

AlimonyIf there’s a common thread that runs through just about every divorce, it’s money. It may have been a significant contributing factor the breakup of your marriage—more than one third of people in a recent poll cited financial problems as a cause of relationship stress and it’s long been the primary reason people file for divorce. More often than not, though, the biggest conflicts involving money in a divorce are about what happens when the proceedings are over. In this blog, we look at how the courts determine whether alimony/spousal support is warranted and, if so, the factors that go into its calculation.

Alimony in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the decision to grant alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis and is gender-neutral—that means that man or a woman can receive spousal support. Alimony can take a number of forms:

  • Permanent support—an order requiring payment for the remainder of the recipient’s life
  • Temporary alimony—an order requiring payment for a specific period of time
  • Rehabilitative alimony—an order requiring payment until the recipient has either obtained education or training to become self-sufficient or has become employed

The court may take a wide range of factors into consideration when calculating alimony, including:

  • How long the parties have been married
  • The health and age of both parties
  • The standard of living while married
  • The potential earning capacities of both parties
  • The actual needs of the recipient, as well as the ability of the other party to pay
  • The extent to which each party played a significant parental role during the marriage
  • The property settlement in the divorce proceeding
  • Any income producing assets owned by the recipient

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving asks us to count our blessings. In that tally, we include not only our families and friends, but the relationships of trust and support that we have built with our clients. We appreciate the confidence you have placed in us, and we will continue to work hard to deserve that confidence.

We hope that this holiday offers you the chance to enjoy time with the people for whom you are most thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Relocating with a Minor Child after a New Jersey Divorce

Child Relocation in New JerseyThings change—it’s just a fact of life. Maybe you’ve been through a divorce and there are minor children involved and you’ve set up custody and visitation, all based on the assumption that you’ll both live close enough to each other that it will work out. But then something happens—you get offered a promotion or a new job, but it’s in another part of the state or the country. Maybe a family member has health problems and you want to move to be close to them. What about custody and visitation? Can you pick up move for any reason? Can you relocate at all?

Moving Away from Your Ex in New Jersey

The first thing to remember is that all decisions about custody and visitation in New Jersey must be based primarily on what the court considers to be the “best interests of the child.” Accordingly, whether a move will be beneficial to one of the parents is not a primary concern. Furthermore, New Jersey courts tend to believe that the child’s best interests are served by having both parents close by.

Under New Jersey law, if your minor child was born in the state or has lived in New Jersey for at least five years, you must obtain either the permission of the other parent or the approval of the court to relocate out of state. The same requirement will apply to a move within the state, if the distance is sufficient to necessitate a change in the existing parenting plan.

In the absence of consent from the other parent, the court will look at a number of factors to determine whether a move would be in the best interests of the child:

  • The likelihood that the custodial parent will allow, encourage and facilitate a positive relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent
  • The effect the move will have on the relationship between all parties and between extended families
  • The child’s preferences (typically only if the child has reached sufficient age and maturity, often 12 years of age)
  • Whether the child would be moving when entering the last year of high school
  • Whether the child has needs or talents that mandate accommodations, and whether such accommodations exist in the destination

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! 2018

The Legal Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

Legal-Grounds-for-Divorce

Like all other states, New Jersey allows you to file for a “no-fault” divorce. Under the concept of a no-fault divorce, there’s no need to identify any cause of the marital breakdown, other than to state that there are “irreconcilable differences.” You can, however, file an “at fault” divorce, where the court makes a determination as to who brought about the dissolution of the marriage. Attributing fault can give you an advantage in the divorce proceedings, leading to a more favorable custody ruling or a better marital property settlement.

To obtain an “at fault” divorce in New Jersey, you must state legal grounds for the divorce. In New Jersey, proof of the following may be sufficient to allow the court to grant a divorce for cause:

  • You and your spouse have maintained separate residences for at least 18 months (technically, this is considered “no-fault”)
  • Your spouse forced you to participate in a “deviant sexual act”—unfortunately, the law is not very clear as to what qualifies as “deviant”
  • One spouse had an extra-marital affair
  • Your spouse has left the marital home and has been gone for at least 12 months
  • Your spouse has a substance abuse problem—drugs or alcohol—which has persisted for more than 12 months
  • Your spouse subjected you to a level of physical abuse and/or mental cruelty that made it unbearable to live with him or her. You may also seek an at-fault divorce if your spouse has endangered your life in any way.
  • Your spouse has been institutionalized for a mental health problem for a minimum of 24 months consecutively after you were married and before you filed for divorce
  • Your spouse has been incarcerated or has been sentenced to a term of 18 months or more after the date of your marriage.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Your Rights in a Child Custody Matter in New Jersey

Child-Custody-Matter-in-New-Jersey

When you are involved in a divorce proceeding and there are minor children in the home, you’ll need to come to an agreement about who will have custody and what visitation will look like. As a parent, you want what’s best for your children, but you also want to play a meaningful role in their growth and development.

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

The first thing you need to understand is that the law makes a distinction between physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child resides most of the time, i.e., where the child would consider “home” to be. In most instances, the court will grant primary custody to one of the parents and allow visitation with the other parent. In determining which parent will have primary custody, the court will give priority to “the best interests of the child.” (See our discussion below).

Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to each parent’s right to participate in the decision-making process with respect to things like health, education and religious training. As a general rule, the courts prefer to grant joint legal custody, so that both parents are involved.

The Best Interests of the Child

When making decisions that have an impact on minor children, the courts in New Jersey are bound to promote the “best interests of the child.” As a general rule, the “best interests of the children” are served by encouraging regular contact with both parents. The court will also look at specific criteria, including:

  • The age, gender, and physical and mental health of the child
  • The mental and physical health of both parents, including the ability to parent, as well as any allegations of domestic violence or abuse
  • The respective lifestyles of both parents, including alcohol, tobacco and drug use or inappropriate exposure to sexual matters
  • The emotional bond the child has with each parent
  • The ability of the parents respectively to provide for the child’s financial, physical and emotional needs
  • The lifestyle and routines to which the child has become accustomed
  • The impact that changing the child’s residency would have
  • The preference of the child, if the child has reached a certain age, typically 12 years of age

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.